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BRIDAL FAIR

Meet Donna at Dream Weddings Extravaganza Bridal Fair
Plymouth Guildhall,
Sunday 18th September 2016, 11am-3pm.
All the details here...

A History of Cake Decorating, Royal Icing & Sugarpaste

The earliest reference to Royal Icing dates back to the 1600s. It was known as 'Egg White' icing - a well-beaten mixture of egg white + icing sugar. It gained the accolade 'Royal' when it was used to coat & decorate Queen Victoria's wedding cake in 1840. Victorian wedding cakes reflected their love of extravagant, ornate decorations. Cakes for the more wealthy members of society were a confection of royal icing, pastillage, jewels, pearls, wax flowers and accentuated with gilding.

Cake Upon Cake Upon Cake...

By the time Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, married the Marquis of Lorne in 1871, it was the practice to stack cakes one on top of the other, and by the end of the century, 3 tier wedding cakes had become the most usual style. A model of the wedding cake of the Duke of York, later George V, had been displayed at a Confectioners exhibition in London, where it attracted great acclaim and became the vogue. Thus the fashion was set, and the 3 tier cake became the usual custom - the style with which we are still most familiar today.

The wedding cake remained a very expensive item, still only to be afforded by the more wealthy members of society. Brides and their families longed to be able to afford the cakes displayed in the shop windows of their local bakery. (After all, royal icing was traditionally a Master Bakers skill). Realising this, bakers began to develop more affordable cakes, cutting down the time - consuming, and thus expensive piping work and the other more ornate decoration. 

Wedding Cakes in the Swinging Sixties

These traditions continued until the 1960s, when things began to change. The Swinging 60s -creative experimentation in music, fashion and art - was also reflected in cake decoration. There was a move away from the heavily decorated and formalised royal icing techniques that characterised the established bakery industry. The classic styles were still used but gradually altered and adapted. The move was toward simpler, crisper and cleaner lines with finer detail that were not cluttered or heavy. This was also the result of a greater demand for cakes and bakeries becoming more commercial. The 1960s also saw a greater experimentation of colour in cakes. Traditionally the wedding cake, just like the wedding dress was white: a symbol of purity. A black wedding cake displayed at the Bakery Exhibition at Olympia in 1965 caused a sensation and a revolution in the acceptance of something quite different!

New ideas and techniques of cake decorating from Australia, namely the use of sugarpaste to coat wedding cakes and the use of gum paste to make delicate flowers gradually permeated into British cake decorating. Sugarcraft, as we now know it, has become an edible art form.

The forgotten art of cake decorating is enjoying a revival in popularity, but not as the heavily decorated cakes of the Victorian Era. Royal icing is extremely versatile, it can be spread to give a flawlessly smooth coating, detailed piping, delicate & intricate lace and extension work, brush & tube embroidery work (matching embroidery work from the wedding dress), all of which offer a superior elegance suitable for any Princess or bride to be.

There is also an increase in demand for people wanting to learn the skills associated with royal icing. As a tutor at Truro College, I have a full class for the ABC Certificated course, and already many names on the waiting list to start the next course beginning in September.

Today, we use Pasturized dried or fresh egg white to comply with health & safety regulations. But its popularity is unchanged. Royal icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth, firm finish, yet disolves in the mouth. It's used to create many different decorative effects:

  • Piped into fanciful shapes
  • Piped flowers
  • Detailed pressure-piped figures
  • Delicate lace and intricate extension work
  • Brush embroidery (to match embroidery work on your wedding dress, for instance)